Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by | Feb 7, 2011

Photo by helgabj

Now you see me, now you don’t.

Today’s guest blogger Tim Harwood is a UK based optometrist who also writes for

Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by Tim Harwood

If you are lucky enough to have perfect vision, don’t assume it will last forever. As we get older the chances of us developing an eye disease increases dramatically–10% of people over the age of 65 have macular degeneration, and that increases to 30% over the next 10 years.

To preserve perfect vision, first you have to cover the basics:

  • Get regular eye tests: Have your vision tested at least every 24 months, as early detection increases the likelihood a disease can be treated. Although not all diseases are treatable (e.g. macular degeneration), certain diseases such as glaucoma respond excellently to medication when detected early enough.
  • Don’t ignore visual symptoms: Regardless of how recently you have had an eye test, you should never ignore visual symptoms. If you see flashing lights, floating specks or blind spots in your vision these could indicate an eye disease that needs urgent attention.

How can food help me maintain perfect vision?

The macula is in the center of our retina and is responsible for central vision, reading and recognizing faces. As we get older our macula shows signs of wear and tear, a process known as macular degeneration. There is no effective treatment for this age-related degeneration, which is why eating the right foods is extremely important.

Within the macula there are 2 key pigments:

  1. Lutein
  2. Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found within the macula. These antioxidants reduce the amount of free radicals formed within our body as a natural consequence of our cells using oxygen (oxidation). These free radicals have degenerative effects on our eyes, which are thought to be the cause of macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin slow down this process and help preserve the macula.

Ophthalmologists are now recommending that people with early signs of macular degeneration take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements or change their diet accordingly.

What foods are high in lutein and zeaxanthin?

Here are the top 5 foods with the highest concentrations of these beneficial nutrients:

  1. Kale
  2. Spinach
  3. Peas
  4. Courgette / zucchini
  5. Brussel sprouts

Studies show that 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin should be eaten daily as part of your diet to provide the maximum benefit to your macula. This equates to about one large bowl of spinach or kale daily. Even if you can’t eat this amont every day, it is worth the effort to eat as much of these vegetables as you can manage.

Though these nutrients do not guarantee protection against macular degeneration, evidence suggests they at least slow the progression of the disease. In any case these vegetables are extremely healthy and may also protect against other conditions caused by oxidation such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

How’s your vision?

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14 Responses to “Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision”

  1. Tuck says:

    The heck with the veggies…

    “Higher intake of specific types of fat–including vegetable, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats and linoleic acid–rather than total fat intake may be associated with a greater risk for advanced AMD. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and fish were inversely associated with risk for AMD when intake of linoleic acid was low.”

    “This study provides evidence of protection against early AMD from regularly eating fish, greater consumption of -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and low intakes of foods rich in linoleic acid. Regular consumption of nuts may also reduce AMD risk. Joint effects from multiple factors are suggested.”

    So follow the USDA guidelines, eat lots of veggie oil, and go blind. Wonderful.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hey Tuck,

      Isn’t it possible that both the antioxidants AND the fish fats are beneficial? Also while I agree that USDA guidelines are generally retarded, they do recommend eating more seafood. I’m confused what you’re in such a huff about.


      • Tuck says:

        The research I’ve seen indicates that, as one study put it, an evolutionary ratio of omega-3/omega-6 oils “prevents” AMD. Many of the studies explicitly say that cutting back on linoleic acid is important to this effect. No mention of the veggies. So yes, the veggies may be good to eat, but they don’t seem to be crucial in this case.

        If you follow the USDA recommendations, you will eat lots of excess linoleic acid, as that’s explicitly what they’re telling you to do. The body metabolizes it in preference to omega-3 fatty acids in many cases, so simply eating more fish doesn’t reverse the potential for damage.

        So the USDA recommendations tell you to stop eating saturated fat and replace it with vegetable oils like corn and soybean. There’s no scientific evidence that saturated fat is bad for you, and there’s simply a ton of scientific evidence that linoleic-acid-rich vegetable oils are bad for you. Aside from the AMD problem, they’re a well-recognized carcinogen (Google linoleic acid and breast cancer, for instance, or see here:, they cause fatty liver disease, they promote over-eating by blocking leptin receptors, and on and on.

        The fact that this novel food substitute is being promoted with our tax dollars for human consumption, and the fact that folks uncritically accept this, puts me in a huff.

      • Imoth says:

        are you kidding me? saturated fat has no proof of being “bad”? it’s definitely not the best choice but there are far better alternatives. I honestly can’t take your post seriously if you honestly think saturated fat is really no big deal.

      • Tuck says:

        The leading scientist who’s been studying saturated fat and heart disease says:

        “…there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of [Coronary Heart Disease] or [Cardio-Vascualar Disease].”

        I’ve not seen any credible evidence to refute this. Gary Taubes wrote a nice big book on the lack of evidence that saturated fat (not trans-fats) are harmful.

        Perhaps you’ll present some evidence?

      • Darya Pino says:

        Here’s a video I made discussing the latest scientific consensus on saturated fat in heart disease if you’re curious what I’m basing my opinion on.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the list, I will add them to my food list. My mom used to make recipe from leaves of the Drumstick tree, she used to say it is very good for the eyes, but doesn’t taste good (it is like the kids here feel about Broccoli). I am doing yoga exercises for eyes for the past few years, my power has been the same no deterioration.

    • LED says:

      I’m most interested to know more about the yoga exercises you do for your eyes??? Never heard of such a thing – my stepmother has macular degeneration and I would love to share this info with her.

      • Chris says:

        Hi L,

        I am doing the following from the book 1 Minute Yoga ( Since I am using computer all day, two things were off concern, first the wrist pain and the second eyes getting tired. There is a good set of exercise for the wrists in the book, which will take about 5 minutes and then the below eye exercises, which takes about another 5 minutes. Ask your mother to do both, you also, because it is also a preventive method so we won’t have problems in the future. The eye exercises are the following I do (you can do either indoors or outdoors):

        1. Stand straight (motionless) and look straight ahead at a distance for 5 seconds
        2. Keeping the head straight, look down for 5 seconds
        3. Repeat Steps 1 and for 3 cycles in total.
        4. Keeping the head straight, look to your left all the way for 5 seconds
        5. Look to your right all the way for 5 seconds.
        6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for 3 cycles in total.
        7. Keeping the head straight, look all the way up for 5 seconds
        8. Look all the way down for 5 seconds.
        9. Repeat Steps 7 and 8 for 3 cycles in total.
        10. Keeping the body straight and rotate your eyes clockwise (moving the head in the process) slowly for three rotations.
        11. Rotate your eyes counter-clockwise slowly for three rotations.

        Do this before you begin the day or before you start your computer work or any work, it keeps your eyes cool and healthy. This set of exercises allows more blood circulation in your eyes keeping it healthy. Also, last but not the least, keep blinking your eyes often through out the day, we forget to blink our eyes often, so try to blink more, that also helps the blood flow in the eyes. Hope this helps.

  3. Jeff says:

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing this list. Perhaps I should get over my hatred for Spinach and peas. 🙂

  4. Jude Walker says:

    Does it make any difference whether the spinach is fresh or cooked?

  5. HeatherT says:

    I would really like to know more about what is going on. There are kids who eat traditional island food, and read a lot, yet have perfect eyesight (Vanuatu). Probably perfect teeth too. Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with a diet that has mostly fish, vegetables, and rice. Oddly enough, my eyesight has improved drastically for both near and far sight: I don’t need glasses for close work at all, and my myopia has improved by 2 diopters according to the optometrist. It is way easier for me to focus my eyes.

    However, when I go off my fish/vegie diet, my vision suddenly changes, and I need my old glasses again. That lasts a day or two, then it goes back. I’ve been trying to pinpoint which foods cause this: it isn’t related to sugar, or high carb foods in general, or fats.

    • Darya Pino says:

      My guess is it’s the fish. Omega-3s are proving more important.

      • HeatherT says:

        That was my first guess. However, taking fish oil tabs or flax seed or other sources of DHA don’t seem to work. And when my eyes “go fuzzy” it is fast … not gradually as I’d expect from just “running out” of some nutrient? I haven’t actually seen much written about this at all, and my optometrist had no idea.

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